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The Good Life: The best Christmas gift
January 03, 2013 Lisa Betz   

Read more by Lisa Betz
Oh what a Christmas! My dad’s family, the Betzes, are a large, boisterous, fun-loving group. Each Christmas Eve, our tradition is to gather at someone’s home and enjoy three different kinds of homemade soups, fresh bread and other holiday treats. We play cards and games and often some of the cousins create a clever game to play that involves silly gifts.

With Christmas Day falling on the newspaper’s normal deadline for the press, everyone at the Citizen had to work extra hard to get their stories and other assignments completed by Friday so that I could spend my weekend laying out the paper. I’ll admit, I worked all weekend and I felt a bit sorry for myself too. By Monday, my plan was to put the finishing touches (copy edits and layout tweaks) on the pages and get home early to finish my most important assignment, making bean soup for the family.

How many times have you heard never to leave a pot unattended on the stove? Like you, I have heard this all my life but did I listen? No. Sunday, I had made the most delicious homemade stock for the soup, with the beans soaking overnight. Monday, I decided to let the beans slowly cook in the stock on the stove at a very low temperature while I went to finish the paper. It took longer than I expected and when I got home, the house was full of smoke. It was a scary thing, but fortunately, there were no flames. Yes, yes, yes, I know. I get the dunce award for 2012.

Not only did I ruin my soup, but my house smelled like a smoking den. I hurriedly added to the Chicken Tortilla soup I had made for the Solstice gathering I hosted on Friday night and decided it would have to do, even though my aunt Janice was making the same kind of soup.

When I arrived at my aunt Shelly’s I realized for the first time that the smoke had clung to my hair, my coat, everything. Fortunately, we were all supposed to wear “ugly” holiday sweaters and they had an extra one for me.

It all turned out just fine, I got the teasing I deserved from the family and we had a great evening. But now my house smells like a ‘90s era bar, and I will have to clean the entire upstairs surfaces in order to get rid of the smell. I am counting my blessings though, it could have been much worse.

My favorite Christmas gift this year came from my grandpa Cleo. I’m a terrible procrastinator about wrapping gifts. Mom was banished to the living room on Christmas morning while I holed up in the guest room wrapping her presents. My wrapping paper is stashed way up high in a little used cabinet. I dragged the step ladder over and for the first time, saw a bunch of folders and books that grandpa had kept up there which I had never noticed before.

I dragged everything out and laid it all on the bed. What an amazing treasure I found! Grandpa had kept photos of Martin and Sarah Gering, Edson and Nellie Gering and their small children, and the Fremont Scotts’ New Year’s Eve portraits taken in Mitchell Valley with all of their extended families. Best of all, most of the photos list names on the back!

Great-grandma Pansy Gering was Pansy Scott. All the Scott sisters were named after flowers. Her sister Daisy married Emerson Ewing, who was featured in our Christmas edition of Remembering When. Daisy’s daughter, Goldie Ewing, was a beloved local historian. What a treasure trove of family history I found. Grandpa also had two copies of A.B. Wood’s Pioneer Tales book and two other books about the history of Scottsbluff. I am very excited to share some of this with all of you on our Remembering When pages, beginning this week with a photo that very well may have been taken by the famous pioneer photographer, Solomon Butcher.

I’m still marveling at how my grandpa Cleo managed to give me a Christmas gift from Heaven, especially since I thought I had poked in every nook and cranny of the farmhouse. I sure do miss him and my great-grandma Pansy too. What a wonderful gift I was given this year.

Another great gift I received was from the Betzes’ gift-giving game…a huge bag of pinto beans. I am given another chance to make bean soup and I promise that I won’t ever leave a pot cooking unattended on the stove again.

Family really is what makes life sweet. Happy New Year everyone! May the blessings of gentleness, understanding, kindness and love be yours this year and forevermore.
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